Collapse of Austro-Marxism
in the Vienna Struggle

(February 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 9, 24 February 1934, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The epic bravery of the Austrian proletariat has proved to he no match lor the murderous bombardment of the reaction. Battling to the end, the workers fired their last shots from the sewers into which they were driven and finally cornered. The last rifle shot sounded the death knell of the once mighty Austrian Social Democracy.

Now that the smoke has lifted, the crimes of the leaders of the social democracy stand out in all their gruesome enormity. Not all the efforts in the world can succeed in covering the facts by referring to the fighting done by Otto Bauer and Julius Deutsch. By their whole past policy they drove inexorably toward the catastrophe and sacrificed the Austrian proletariat, just as surely as did their German confrères a year before.

A Fatal Policy

The leaders of Austro-Marxism chained the proletariat to the anchor of the constitution which dragged it ever deeper into a swamp. They taught the workers faith in capitalist democracy as the basis upon which a new society could be erected without disturbances, peacefully. They pursued a course up to the last minute of supporting Dollfuss as the “lesser evil”, despite the tragedy to which the German proletariat had been brought by the same policy. They allowed the proletariat to be disarmed, the Schutzbund to be dissolved, the Socialist press to be confiscated. They whimpered at Dollfuss’ heels while the proletariat’s ranks were being demoralized and enfeebled.

They talked big. They threatened a general strike if any one of four actions were taken against the workers and their organizations. In this way they succeeded in checking the uneasy masses who wanted to fight the hyena of reaction before it became too powerful.

But while they talked about a general strike, they did not take a single step to prepare for it.

That is why we charge the leaders of the Austrian social democracy with treachery to the proletariat!

A dozen articles would not be half so effective in revealing the depths to which Austro-Marxism has sunk, as are the simple words of its leader, Otto Bauer. Let every militant the socialist workers above all, engrave in his mind the revelations made to the press in Bratislava, whence Bauer fled after the crushing of the workers. We print them here, extracted from the interview he granted to Mr. G.B.K. Gedyre, correspondent in Czechoslovakia of the New York Times (February 18, 1934):

“Since that date – the date of the Hitler triumph in Germany – our party has made the very greatest efforts to come to an agreement with the government, because we knew what the end would be otherwise. Either the Nazis were bound to triumph in Austria or some such terrible bloodshed as has now happened was bound to come.”

Banking on Dollfuss

“In the first weeks of March our leaders were still in close personal contact with Dollfuss and frequently tried to get him to agree to a constitutional solution. At the end of March he promised our leader, Dr. Denneberg, personally, that at the beginning of April he would open negotiations with us for the reform of the Constitution.

“This promise he never fulfilled, for at the beginning of April he passed over definitely to the Fascist camp (although he concealed it from other countries) and refused to speak to any of the Socialists.

“When he said he could not see the existing leaders we offered to send him other negotiators. He refused sharply. As we could not see him again we tried to negotiate through other people. Honestly, we left no stone unturned ...

“We offered to make the greatest concessions that a democratic and socialist party had ever made. We let Dollfuss know that if he would only pass a bill through Parliament we would accept a measure authorizing the government to govern by decree without Parliament for two years, on two conditions only – that a small Parliamentary committee in which the government had a majority, should be able to criticize decrees and that a constitutional court, the only protection against breaches of the Constitution, should be restored ... Dollfuss refused.

“In our parliamentary committee in October, we announced that a general strike would take place if any one of four things, but only these things, should occur. You know these conditions. They were that if the government imposed a Fascist constitution on the country, if a government commissar were appointed in Vienna, or if our party or the trade unions were dissolved we would strike. Our party stuck to the last to these four points.”

The Dissatisfied Masses

“The dissatisfaction and agitation of the workers against the conservative policy of our party committee grew as the government provocations increased. The workers said the government was making itself more powerful militarily, was wearing down our spirit and was choosing its own time to attack us. Excitement rose to a fever pitch during the last weeks.

“Last Sunday night in Vienna a comrade coming from Linz warned me that the workers of Linz were highly indignant and alarmed over the Heimwehr action and had declared that if any further action were taken to deprive them of their arms they would defend themselves for the sake of the Republic.

“I was alarmed to hear of the spirit, and after discussion with my informant we both decided that urgent messages must be sent to the workers to keep cool. I arranged for them to be told that if we in Vienna could submit patiently to an arms search in party headquarters they must try to do the same. Apparently the message arrived too late ...”

It is by these methods and with this spirit that the Bauers prepared the Austrian proletariat, over whom they wielded an undivided and undisputed influence, for the decisive battle which they fought and lost. What does it matter if, unlike so many of their German prototype, a few Bauers or Deutsches did engage in the actual fighting? The fact may be a credit to their personal courage or political intelligence. But the Bauer interview lays bare what was never successfully concealed: the leaders of the Austrian social democracy wanted anything but a struggle; they left no stone unused as an obstacle in the road of the working class; they lifted Dollfuss into the saddle so that he might cut down an unprepared working class.

The Austro-Marxist school, in the deepest sense of the term, left its proletariat in the lurch at the crucial hour! It shore the Austrian Samson of all his strength so that when his strength was tested the pillars of reaction could fall upon him and crush him to earth. So we solemnly repeat today the terrific indictment of Austro-Marxism uttered in court by Friedrich Adler, on trial during the war for assassinating the Austrian Prime Minister Stuerghk as a protest against the chauvinism of the official social democracy, the same Friedrich Adler who today shares, as the penitent secretary of the Second International, the responsibility of all the others:

Adler’s Indictment

“As faithful servants the leaders of the proletariat strove to save the organization. But in so doing, they have betrayed their real class interests, they have betrayed the International, and the idea of the social revolution. They have won small benefits for the workers during the war, it is true. I should be the last to refuse to recognize what was accomplished to protect the working class from many a threatening wrong. But they have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage ...

“I came into conflict with the Party Executive Committee particularly because it has become more and more a counter-revolutionary institution. The conviction has grown upon me that a revolution in Austria can come only against the will of the Executive Committee which will always be a hindrance to the revolutionary movement ...

“What I wished to prove was that only over the heads and against the will of the Party authorities in Austria can a real revolutionary upheaval in Austria come, that only by disregarding them will it be possible to use the force that must be used to overthrow the rule of force upon which our government rests.

Though he has since turned apostate to his own words, they rise from their pages again today to nail to the pillory of eternal shame the perfidious leaders of the Austrian working class.

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